The Daily Gamecock

Men’s tennis prepares for top-20 teams

USC trying to snap 2-match losing streak this weekend

As the No. 22 South Carolina men’s tennis team gears up for its final two matches before the SEC tournament, coach Josh Goffi is making it clear to his team that this weekend’s contests are among the most significant it will play all year.

“We keep it as simple as possible,” Goffi said. “As a team, it’s real simple. This weekend is extremely important for us. We will not overlook this weekend at all.”

The Gamecocks (15-9, 5-5 SEC) will square off against two top-20 opponents before they begin postseason play, facing a 13th-ranked Vanderbilt team Friday followed by No. 8 Kentucky Sunday.

USC limps into the weekend with a two-game SEC losing streak, suffering back-to-back 4-2 losses at the hands of more top-20 competition in No. 11 Mississippi and No. 6 Ole Miss last weekend. While Goffi has stressed to his team not to be satisfied with the losses, he views going toe-to-toe with top opponents as a step in the right direction.

“A year ago we’re not competing with teams that are inside the top 15, at all,” Goffi said. “We were in a position to win both, so you can look at the positives or dwell on the negatives, and we choose to look at the positives most of the time here.”

While South Carolina has only amassed one win against a top-20 program in the spring season, the team has compiled a 7-9 record against teams in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s list of the top 50 teams in the nation.

USC’s opponents this weekend are coming off a match against each other, which Vanderbilt won by a score of 4-2. As the Wildcats enter this weekend on a losing note, the Commodores’ win against Kentucky last weekend was their second in a row.

“We need to go out and get a ranked win inside the top 15,” Goffi said. “Our aspirations are to host the NCAAs, the first two rounds, our regional, and so we can’t do that unless we go get one of these this weekend.”

Both Vanderbilt and Kentucky boast two singles players ranked in the top 50 by the ITA, posing a daunting challenge for South Carolina’s top two singles players in junior Tsvetan Mihov and sophomore Andrew Adams, No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Even though the pair will face stiff competition this weekend, Goffi wants his top two guys to treat the contest like any other match.

“They have a tall order ahead of them. They’re playing the best guys in the country week in and week out,” Goffi said. “But the beautiful thing about where they are is that there’s always something to gain. It’s always a good win for them.”

Goffi often likes to compare his team’s matches to a war, and he said at this point, with the season reaching its climax, there is no more time for improvement. The third-year head coach said all he can do at this point is assure that his team has the right levels of energy and passion to accomplish that task at hand.

“We’re played at this point. We’re as good as we’re going to be,” Goffi said. “There’s no cramming for the test. We manage and we maintain and we sharpen tools, but we’re not trying to get better at this point in the year.”